Chewing consists of grinding food before ingesting it. she is considered the first step in digestion, but has other important advantages. Explanation by Florence Foucaut, dietician-nutritionist, member of the French Association of Dieticians and Nutritionists (AFDN).
Definition: what is chewing?
The simplest gestures are often the most neglected. And yet… Chewing indicates the action of grinding and chewing food using the teeth† It is often messy, while without prior action the whole digestion process is affected. Indeed, it causes saliva to start breaking down food, so that better absorption of nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, etc.) in the stomach and intestine.
How to chew well?
Chewing is possible thanks to the movements of the jaws (in particular the lower jaw), the tongue and the cheeks. Specifically, the food sits between the cheeks, the teeth and the palate. They are incised by the incisors, lacerated by the canines, and then crushed by the molars and premolars. The tongue and cheeks have the job of moving the food between the two rows of teeth, for the duration of the meal or snack.
What is the role of chewing? What are the advantages?
As explained above, chewing allows to form the food bolus that will be swallowed. It activates the production of saliva and makes it possible to avoid “false roads” by breaking the food into very small pieces. And his other missions are many:
Chewing aids digestion
“By chewing, digestive enzymes can impregnate food in the mouth. Saliva, in particular, contains amylase, an enzyme that makes it possible to properly digest starch, the carbohydrate found in bread and starch,” explains Florence Foucaut. By taking the time to chew, we anticipate and therefore facilitate the work of the stomach† In particular, chewing for longer helps to reduce certain digestive disorders (gastric reflux, bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain, etc.). Swallowing smaller portions of food and chewing it well also helps to reduce pressure against the esophageal sphincter, preventing the risk of acid reflux.
Chewing increases the feeling of satiety
Our nervous system is also involved in this process. Chewing properly not only reduces the amount of food, but it also gives the brain time to study the composition of the food bolus, study it better, and adapt to the food ingested. “By taking your time, you can prolong the feeling of satiety and adjust food intake thanks to the secretion of ghrelin, the appetite hormone,” says the dietitian-nutritionist. Thanks to this hormone, the brain can count and control calorie intake a signal of saturationwho orders to stop eating.
Chewing promotes weight management
Several studies have shown that slow and/or prolonged chewing was associated with a low body mass index (BMI). Mindful eating, without distraction from smartphone or television, makes it possible to promote the feeling of satiety, thus reducing the portion size and extending the satiety time. This reduces the risk of harmful snacking, which is the cause of weight gain, says Florence Foucaut.
Chew for good oral health
Chew well also increases saliva production, which allows better oral hygiene: saliva neutralizes certain bacteria, removes plaque and protects the enamel thanks to its antacid action. This prevents dental caries. In addition, it helps to develop and maintain the muscles of the jaw and pharynxto avoid “wrong routes” and swallowing disorders, especially in young children and the elderly.
What are the consequences of bad chewing?
Bad chewing does not prevent the absorption of nutrients, micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements) or mesonutrients (antioxidants, carotenoids, polyphenols, omega 3, etc.). On the other hand, it slows it down, as less chewing increases the work of the stomach and may complicate digestion.
Swallowing large chunks quickly forces the body to produce more gastric juice, very sour, to get the job done. Chewing too quickly can therefore complicate the transit. The food is not ground enough and the digestive system struggles to process or eliminate it. “This is all the more true if you already suffer from stomach or digestive problems (stomach lifts, stomach ulcers, gastritis, etc.)”, the nutritionist says. So think twice before starting your next meal and take the time to enjoy what you eat.